“Let’s remember what this is all about,” Karl Rove said to a packed audience in Campbell Hall as 150 protesters stood outside. “It’s about our country, and this is a shared experience.”

Rove — the senior advisor and deputy chief of staff to former President George W. Bush, a regular Newsweek columnist and a Fox News contributor — addressed a politically divided crowd at last night’s free event. The lecture was coordinated by the UCSB College Republicans with funding from Associated Students and support from the Young America’s Foundation.

The event was met with controversy from the community and groups such as SB Antiwar. In addition to the protestors outside wielding signs, UC Police Dept. Sgt. Matt Bowman noted that 60 individuals walked out of the event.

“Dammit, I wish they’d stayed around,” Rove said. “Then we could have had an honest dialogue.”

Rove was heckled by audience members throughout his speech.

“Talk about your war crime,” a young female audience member called to the stage.

“I will talk about it,” Rove responded. “Thank you for the invitation.”

In his speech, Rove praised the progress of American voters for selecting Barack Obama as president, calling it an “historic election.”

“Candidate Obama was right,” he said. “President Obama was wrong. We had so much promise, so much hope. The country was waiting for an opportunity in him, and we did not get it.”

Rove addressed conservative objections with the current administration’s stimulus bill and health care reforms, in addition to the current budget deficit.

Despite his criticism, Rove noted in an interview with the Nexus that “[having] a compelling vision that is optimistic and hopeful is necessary in order to confront the challenges that our country faces.”

Throughout the evening, he commended Obama both for the continued occupation of Iraq as well as for the increased military presence in Afghanistan, stating that Obama was “going after the bad guys” and enforcing “democracy in the heart of the Middle East.”

Many demonstrators took issue with Rove’s military stances.

“My parents are from Iraq…[and the] number of deaths there…[show] that he has a total disregard for humanity,” Noor Aljawad, a first-year Middle East studies and sociology major said.

The first pre-screened question read by Ryan McNicholas, event coordinator for the College Republicans, accused Rove and other members of the Bush administration of engaging in illegal acts of warfare.

“Why are we war criminals? Because we went to war in Iraq?” Rove said. “The world is a better place now that Saddam Hussein, a murderous dictator, is no longer in power.”

Other points Rove tackled included his testimony before Congress, firing of multiple U.S. attorneys, opinions about filibusters and the value of human life.

Rove jested with the audience, especially when one of the individuals who submitted a question stood up. Rove asked the student what he was holding in his hand, which the student said was his BlackBerry phone.

“I’ve got an iPhone,” Rove said. “I’m cool, you’re not.”

While the conclusion of the event left many still asking questions, others felt that Rove delivered an effective message.

“He was confident and powerful, but you felt like you were having a conversation with him,” Steven Begakis, a second-year political science major and Daily Nexus conservative columnist, said.

McNicholas also agreed that the event met his expectations.

“Although the walk out was a minor success, I look at the event as a whole running pretty smoothly,” he said. “Most of the students there wanted to go and were genuinely interested in what Rove had to say.”

Despite a number of attempts to breach the building, no arrests were made by the police. Bowman said that the security officers on the scene “appreciated the cooperation” of the protestors and acknowledged the value of free speech.

Protest organizers, such as Nathaniel Padgett, a fourth-year business economics major who coordinated efforts through SB Antiwar, said the rally was passionate but controlled.

“I think there was a really good turn out. Everyone is acting in the interest of peace, and there is an energy about it,” he said.

As the evening ended, Rove concluded his speech with comments about a unified America despite political affiliation, asking the audience to “keep America what it is — the greatest nation on the planet.”